Louie St. George: Former Duluthian Mason Aguirre prepping for Winter Dew TourThe 23-year-old Duluth-bred Olympian — he was the youngest member of the U.S. snowboarding team that competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics, where he finished fourth in the halfpipe — is preparing for his third ride on the Winter Dew Tour, which commences Dec. 16 in Breckenridge, Colo.
By: Louie St. George, Budgeteer News
I’m not a snowboarder — or a skier, for that matter.
I can’t shred, I can’t grind and I can’t tuck. I know more about Vanna White than Shaun White.
For years, I’ve held fast to a cadre of snowboarder stereotypes: they’re punks or rebels or both.
Then I spoke with Mason Aguirre and realized I’m kind of an idiot.
Aguirre, the Duluth-bred snowboarding icon, is articulate and insightful, driven and passionate.
The 23-year-old Olympian — he was the youngest member of the U.S. snowboarding team that competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics, where he finished fourth in the halfpipe — is preparing for his third ride on the Winter Dew Tour, which commences Dec. 16 in Breckenridge, Colo.
A professional snowboarder, Aguirre immediately squashed my preconceived notions when I spoke with him earlier this week.
He’s an athlete who’s motivated to be the best at what he does, which is to defy gravity while displaying uncanny grace. At the same time, he’s laidback, with an even demeanor that belies his youth.
Snowboarding is his career, how he pays the bills, and he’s enjoying the heck out of it.
So when Aguirre gears up for the Winter Dew Tour, he’s sure to combine a steely focus with plenty of smiles.
“I’m hoping to do well on the Dew Tour, for sure,” Aguirre said Monday after a day of practice in Breckenridge. “So I think I’m just going to have fun with it. Be smooth and carefree and just go with it. I think that’s when I’m at my best. Just ride hard and have fun, and smile — you know, enjoy it.”
The Dew Tour features three stops: next week at Breckenridge, late-January in Killington, Vt., and mid-February in Ogden, Utah. A dislocated shoulder forced Aguirre to miss the final two legs a year ago, as well as the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Still, Aguirre boasts an impressive résumé.
He was but a precocious teen when he and his family set out for Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in 2002 so the then-15-year-old could pursue a snowboarding career. It was, by all accounts, the right move, as Aguirre has soared to the pinnacle of his profession.
Aside from his Olympic experience, Aguirre has become a staple at the Winter X Games, where he captured a silver medal in the “superpipe” in 2006.
That same year, he won the world superpipe championships and the New Zealand Open. Consistent success has followed.
Not bad for the kid who had no idea what to expect when he left Duluth to try his luck in what he called a “cutthroat industry.”
There is no template for becoming a professional snowboarder.
Aguirre had to make his own contacts and open his own doors.
A talented young hockey player, by contrast, will eventually be discovered by college recruiters and professional scouts.
That’s not the reality in snowboarding. And when that big break finally surfaced, Aguirre had to capitalize.
“For me, riding under pressure is good; I like to ride under pressure,” Aguirre said. “For me, if you don’t have that pressure, you don’t feel the need to progress. So that’s what I like to do, I like that part of snowboarding.
“You don’t really have that many opportunities to redeem yourself. I think it’s all about practicing and staying on point, and I think that’s what separates yourself.”
Aguirre, whose sister Molly is also a professional snowboarder, admitted he was “pretty hyped” when he made $14,000 or $15,000 that first year as a pro and was able to buy a car and a cell phone.
Now — with prestigious events and high-profile sponsors such as Burton — the financial payoff is far greater. But that hasn’t changed Aguirre’s outlook.
He realizes he’s remarkably blessed to travel the world and ride atop pristine mountains for a living.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” Aguirre said. “I want to try to get another 10 years out of snowboarding, if my body will let me.”
• Jerry Kill was named as the next football coach of the Gophers earlier this week. Far from a splashy hire, Kill is nonetheless a proven winner. From the moment Tim Brewster was fired, Joel Maturi, the U of M’s athletic director, seemed inclined to “win the press conference.” Kill didn’t accomplish that, but isn’t it more important to win on Saturdays anyway?
• Watching the Vikings play the past two weeks begs this question: Why did they wait so long to fire Brad Childress and promote Leslie Frazier?
Perhaps the season could have been saved had Childress been fired earlier.
• Here is what Aguirre had to say about his visits to Duluth: “For me, it doesn’t get any better than being back in Duluth in the summer. The cold is kind of harsh in the winter, but I grew up in it, so I can handle it.”
Budgeteer sports columnist Louie St. George last wrote about the Cromwell Cardinals’ Jordan Suhonen (and his hair). He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.